This Life Or The Next?

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.
When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy
went and sold all he had and bought that field.”
Matthew 3:44 (NIV)

C.S. Lewis once wisely said, “There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.” If only we believed this we might not fear going to heaven so much. All we do when leaving this life is to exchange the mud puddles of time for the ocean’s shores of eternity.

Our text today teaches us that if we lose all we have in this life for the sake of gaining the kingdom of heaven we are most blessed. The truth here is that the kingdom of God is far, far more wonderful than anything and all things this life can offer.

Why is it then that we sigh and lament the loss of some things in this life when we know our Lord and Saviour has marvels and joys indescribable ahead of us in glory? What are we saying when we become so upset at the loss of health or wealth when we will walk the streets of gold with the Lord? Was Paul wrong when he said in Romans 8:18 (NIV)

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing
with the glory that will be revealed in us. ”

Ought we not to be more attentive to the scriptural promises of heaven and less concerned with our suffering in this life? Thomas Watson put it well when he said, “Eternity to the godly is a day that has no sunset; eternity to the wicked is a night that has no sunrise.”

We need to be constantly focusing on our future if we wish to manage the disappointments and sorrows of this life. We are of little earthly good unless we are very heavenly minded.

Paul put it so well in Colossians 3:1- 4

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ,
set your hearts on things above, where Christ is,
seated at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ, who is your life, appears,
then you also will appear with him in glory.”

When You Don’t Know How To Pray

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.
We do not know what we ought to pray for,
but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
Romans 8:26 NIV

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place.
When he finished, one of his disciples said to him,
“Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
Luke 11:1 NIV

Yesterday we considered the importance of being specific in our prayers just as we see in the recorded prayers in the Bible. However, there are times when we are not in a position to know how to pray about something.

For example, I recall a series of visits I made to a wonderful young mother in hospital. She had cancer. As a nurse, she understood the implications of her situation.

She had lost her own mother when she was only 12 years old to the very same form of cancer. She desperately wanted to live until her children grew up so they might avoid the struggles she had when her mother passed away.

This fine Christian woman asked me to pray she would be spared and I did. However, the last time she was in hospital she asked me if I thought our prayers would be answered. I had to be honest and so I said that I was doubtful. She was upset at my confession of ignorance of her future and that was the last time I saw her. She passed away a few days later.

So we sometimes have confusion about how to pray. We know how life usually happens but we want a miracle.

We wish to be an exception to the rule and why not? But then we slowly realize that our prayers for the exception may not be answered. It is then that we must submit our situation to our loving and gracious Father in heaven to do as He sees best.

Our verses make it clear that there are times when we do not know how to pray as we ought, and they give us comfort in times of confusion.

First the Holy Spirit takes up praying where we must leave off and completes the petition in a wordless manner. Here is genuine encouragement in these times of bewilderment. Someone with infinite knowledge of what we need takes our case to the throne of God and makes effectual prayers.

We know also that Jesus prays for us in heaven just as He prayed for us while here with His beloved people (e.g. John 17).

He ever lives above for me to intercede
His all redeeming love, His precious blood to plead
His powerful blood did once atone
and now it pleads before the throne.

—Charles Wesley

Praying For Each Other

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the glorious Father,
may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation,
so that you may know him better.”
Ephesians 1:17 NIV

I have heard more “God bless” prayers than I needed to hear. Even as a young Christian I had trouble with prayers where a Christian would say, “God bless this missionary and that one. Lord we remember so and so.”

I often wondered which specific blessing was being asked for when such a prayer was offered. Or when someone prayed and “remembered” a person but did not ask the Lord for anything I was confused.

Why do we make such weak and ineffective prayers? Where do we find warrant in Scripture for such expressions? Could this not be a reason why our prayers seem so ineffective at times?

When you read today’s text it is clear exactly what it is that Paul wishes God to give the Christians. He desires that his readers be given a “Spirit of wisdom and revelation”. Paul then speaks of why he desired these things for the believers at Ephesus. He said that having these things would enable them to know the Lord “better”.

Consider your prayer life for others and ask yourself if you really specify exactly what you wish for others or do you simply say, “God bless the missionaries.” Do you give the Lord reasons why the thing you request would be good for the ones you pray for?

Another wonderful prayer to consider when seeking to improve your prayer life for others is in John 17.

It would do you good to take pen and paper and write down all the specific things our Lord asked the Father for when He prayed for His people. Jesus asked for one thing three times. Repetition like that makes the request very emphatic.

This exercise would greatly enhance your prayer life and make it a more enjoyable and exciting time in your daily routine. You would learn what it is that Jesus wants His people to have. You cannot do better than to pray for one another as Jesus did.

As a mother or father delights to hear the voice of their children, so our Father in heaven loves to hear us in prayer. Be very certain of this and your prayer life will be enriched greatly. Your Father in heaven waits to hear from you. Come to Him and come now.

Such Love

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you”
John 15:9 (NIV)

“Then the world will know that you sent me
and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
John 17:23 (NIV)

One of our grandchildren really likes to verbally express his love for us. If I say, “I love you with all my heart.” He will say, “I love you 10 times as much!”. Being loved is such a basic need and telling our loved ones we love them is so important. I know a fine man who never heard his father tell him he loved him. He knew his dad loved him but never heard those wonderful words “I love you son.” That son determined his children would hear those words often.

Our verses for today should be as familiar and precious to us as John 3:16. Jesus makes the wondrous statement here that we are as loved by the Father as His own beloved Son. We marvel at such a statement and confess we cannot fathom such a remarkable comment.

Reader can you say God loves you as much as He loves His Son? Has His Holy Spirit spoken words of love to you? Read H. Bonar’s hymn below and may you rejoice in its truth today.

A mind at perfect peace with God;
O what a word is this!
A sinner reconciled through blood;
This, this indeed is peace.

By nature and by practice far,
How very far from God;
Yet now by grace brought nigh to Him,
Through faith in Jesus’ blood.

So nigh, so very nigh to God,
I cannot nearer be;
For in the person of His Son
I am as near as He.

Christian Meditation

“Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.”
Psalm 119:97 (NIV)

Christian meditation is a very useful spiritual exercise that many believers do not use. For example, Christian meditation can be done when you read a specific passage of Scripture several times (like the Psalmist) and each time ponder what is written. Then read a hymn several times that is related to the passage’s theme then pray to the Lord to make that spiritual truth real in your life.

I personally find reciting a passage of Scripture from memory slowly and seeking to focus on its message is a heartwarming and faith strengthening experience. Regular Scripture memorization is a wonderful exercise to draw you near to your heavenly Father.

The Psalmist put it well when he wrote (Psalm 119:11 ),

“I have hidden your word in my heart
to prevent me from sinning against you.”

This helps us bring “All our thoughts captive to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).

Find an open 15 minute spot in your daily routine and spend the time in meditation. Here is a Scripture to read and a beautiful poem to follow up the thoughts in it. Isaiah 6:1-8 (NIV)

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.

2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.

3 And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar.

7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

My God, how wonderful thou art

My God, how wonderful thou art,
thy majesty how bright,
how beautiful thy mercy seat,
in depths of burning light!

How dread are thine eternal years,
O everlasting Lord,
by prostrate spirits day and night
incessantly adored!

How wonderful, how beautiful,
the sight of thee must be,
thine endless wisdom, boundless power,
and aweful purity!

O how I fear thee, living God,
with deepest, tenderest fears,
and worship thee with trembling hope
and penitential tears!

Yet I may love thee too, O Lord,
almighty as thou art,
for thou hast stooped to ask of me
the love of my poor heart.

No earthly father loves like thee,
no mother, e’er so mild,
bears and forbears as thou hast done
with me, thy sinful child.

Father of Jesus, love’s reward,
what rapture it will be,
prostrate before thy throne to lie,
and gaze and gaze on thee!